Victoria’s Department of Health says a full public health response is underway after a hotel quarantine worker tested positive to COVID-19.
- It is the second hotel quarantine worker to test positive since Wednesday
- High-risk exposure sites have been identified in Maidstone, Sunshine and the Watergardens shopping centre in Taylors Lakes
- Testing capacity is being expanded in Melbourne’s west
The department said the woman worked as an authorised officer at the Holiday Inn hotel at Melbourne Airport, which is used as a “health hotel” to house returned travellers who have contracted the virus.
The public health team was contacting the hotel, along with the case’s close contacts.
The worker returned a negative test result on February 4 and returned to work on February 7, where she developed symptoms and later tested positive.
An alert was released just before midnight on Sunday.
“We are contacting Holiday Inn Airport workers and others who are considered primary close contacts,” the department said.
“They are required to immediately isolate, get tested and remain isolated for 14 days.”
It is the second hotel quarantine worker to test positive for the virus in the past week.
On Wednesday — as the state recorded 28 days without a locally acquired case — a worker from the Grand Hyatt hotel was confirmed to be infected.
So far, there have been no cases linked to the Grand Hyatt worker, and more than 1,100 close contacts are currently completing a 14-day quarantine period.
The infection has been recorded as a locally acquired coronavirus case, bringing the total number of active infections in the state to 20.
There were 11,359 test results processed on Sunday, and no new cases in returned travellers within the quarantine system.
Dan Murphy’s, cake shop and Watergardens shopping centre identified as exposure sites
The department has identified three “Tier 1 exposure sites” visited by the Holiday Inn worker.
Anyone who has visited the following locations at the listed times must get a COVID-19 test and remain isolated for 14 days:
- Marciano’s Cakes, Maidstone, from 9:45am to 10:25am on Friday, February 5
- Dan Murphy’s, Sunshine from 5:50pm to 6:30pm on Friday, February 5 and 6:50pm to 7:30pm on Saturday February 6
- Off Ya Tree Watergardens, Taylors Lakes from 1:17pm to 1:52pm on Saturday February 6
An updated list of exposure sites is on the department’s website.
The department said testing capacity would increase in areas near these exposure sites on Monday.
Opposition questions how virus is getting out
Health authorities are still investigating the possible transmission of the virus between returned travellers at a different quarantine hotel, where it appears it spread between rooms at the Park Royal hotel.
In the wake of the Grand Hyatt worker testing positive, the state has returned to the tightened coronavirus restrictions in place over New Year’s Eve.
Masks are mandatory indoors and the number of visitors allowed in the home has been halved to 15, while a plan to increase workplace caps to 75 per cent of capacity today has been paused.
Protocols at the state’s quarantine hotels are also being tightened and reviewed, with workers wearing face shields, a review of ventilation and “buffers” in place between large family groups in rooms.
Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng last week said the testing regime would be altered so workers would be tested after they finish working at the hotels. They are already tested daily while on the job.
Authorities are looking at airborne or aerosol transmission as a possible source of spread in the recent infections.
On Thursday, Professor Cheng said before the Holiday Inn became a “hot hotel”, it had its air conditioning units replaced to make sure was enough fresh air and the air exchanges were adequate.
After the state’s deadly second wave was linked to breaches in hotel quarantine, the scheme was fully reworked before accepting returned travellers again at the end of last year.
The Opposition health spokesperson Georgie Crozier said the Government had promised a “gold standard” program.
“Why are the workers still testing positive? Do they need to review their systems? Do they need to look at extending the isolation periods? Do those workers need to be in isolation and tested following their shifts because we cannot afford to go into a third wave,” she said.
“We cannot afford a third lockdown.”
Clinical epidemiologist Nancy Baxter, from the University of Melbourne, has called for a full re-evaluation of the hotel quarantine program.
She said any hotel suspected of airborne transmission should be immediately removed from the quarantine program.
“We should break whatever contract is there with that quarantine hotel and just move people out of there,” she told News Breakfast.
“We need to get the airflow experts, the occupational health and safety experts, they need to go in, they need to assess these places and they need to say ‘this hotel has to close’, they need to have the power and authority to say that.”